Commission chair questions loan forgiveness
SEBRING - County commission Chairman Jack Richie said Wednesday he was unaware that Highlands County had arranged loans in 2006 with 16 people that would be forgiven within seven years. “No, I didn’t realize that,” Richie said. “Actually, some of these were satisfied in three years.” Documents used the word “satisfied,” but a “Satisfaction of Mortgage” document for each of the 16 said the commissioners “acknowledge compromise or payment.” “The way (the housing department) was run, it was very little oversight or very little understanding of what was going on,” Richie said.County Attorney Ross Macbeth used similar words on Wednesday: “The housing department wasn’t getting a lot of oversight. In some cases, they were stacking loans.” On the agenda item commissioners considered, a statement signed by Community Programs Department Director Jeannie DuBenion and County Administrator June Fisher read: “The State Initiative and Hurricane Housing Recovery Program provide loans for Foreclosure Intervention, Home Repair and Down Payment Assistance for first-time homebuyers that require a mortgage on the property. When clients complete the terms of their loans, such as meeting the primary residence requirement or paying off their loans, the mortgages need to be satisfied.” The recommended action by the staff was: “Approve the Satisfaction of Mortgages for each of the clients on the attachment.” “This is not very pretty,” Richie said. “We have got to find a better way of helping people in need. Veterans that have been shot up defending their country can’t get their loans satisfied in three years or seven years.” A 17th loan for $1,846 to Raymond Mulero was “satisfied due to: paid in full Foreclosure Intervention.” On Tuesday, commissioners voted to forgive these loans, all dated in 2006, “satisfied due to primary residence requirement met”: Ollie Mae Evans, $40,640. Bankie Hilton, $44,678. Dollie Mae Irvin, $44,600. Helen Folks, $48,993. Lillie Coker, $44,273. Walter and Maybell Sholtz, $48,796. Lavonda Matthews, $44,154. Reginald McCullors, $34,474. Gwendolyn Claitt, $43,991. Juanita Brown, $13,450. Delise Fletcher, $7,800. Joanne Hilton, $14,860. Hope Lankford, $11,490. Parthenia McMinns, $9,040. Debbie Tubbs, $7,910. Janice Wilkerson, $10,825.